Record Breaker and Leader, In and Out of the Pool

By Tad Vezner


Student-athletes in STEM fields, Anna Slominski (CE, M.S. TE ’23) believes, can have a harder time coming out as queer. Slominski, who uses the pronouns they/them, has served as both an academic leader and prolific record-breaker on the university’s swimming and diving team.

And this year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association recognized Slominski’s achievements by naming them the 2023 Division III LGBTQ Student-Athlete of the Year.

Slominski, who is also the president of Illinois Tech’s Environmental Engineering Club, held numerous Illinois Tech school records at the start of the 2023–24 season, including the 50-yard freestyle (23.67 seconds), the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute 54.13 seconds), the 100-yard breaststroke (1:03.81), the 200-yard breaststroke (2:19.33), and the 200-yard individual medley (2:06.87).

At the 2023 Liberal Arts Conference Championships, Slominski became the conference record holder for the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard breaststroke, and the 200-yard breaststroke.

They also made history by becoming the first person from Illinois Tech to qualify for a NCAA D-III championship meet. Although that meet was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they competed in the 2023 NCAA championship, while also being named Illinois Tech’s Women’s Athlete of the Year.

In explaining its decision, the NCAA noted that Sominski “organized a panel discussion of queer engineers with a goal of connecting current LGBTQ students with STEM professionals with queer identities. Additionally, Slominski presented on queer issues and identities during a summer internship during Pride Month last June.”

In a YouTube video responding to the honor, Soliminski said, “Being queer is such a personal part of one’s life, especially in academics and athletics; it can be hard to integrate yourself into more nonqueer communities.…To be a voice for people in STEM, as well as an athlete on campus, I just want to make an impact in that way.”

In an interview with Illinois Tech Magazine, Solminski—who came out as bisexual when they were 11, and nonbinary in their second year of college—adds, “I have always been a really authentically out person. I’ve had really supportive parents and a supportive partner. The meaning of the award didn’t hit me until I was in front of 200 people giving a speech. It was an incredible experience. There were plenty of people at the award ceremony that came up and said thanks.”

That supportive atmosphere continued at Illinois Tech, Slominski notes.

“Sometimes it’s not about large initiatives, but more so about the day-to-day way the athletic department interacts with student-athletes. And I feel Illinois Tech’s athletic department is very inclusive with its athletes,” Slominski says.

“It was truly a pleasure being able to witness Anna receive [the NCAA award]. It couldn’t have been given to a more deserving person. We are extremely proud of them,” says Illinois Tech Athletics Director Usha Gilmore.